Friday, September 28, 2007

Take a break

The NFL is a train. I’m not talking about a little commuter train carrying wide-eyed hopeful professionals; I’m talking about a FREIGHT train.

Once September rolls around, this train machine comes rumbling down the tracks and takes out everything in its way. It’s like the biggest “big brother” ever. It doesn’t care who or what is on those tracks, it will prevail. Unfortunately, this machine, to keep the analogy going, decapitates baseball division & wild card races. It happens every year. You’ll see popular sports shows (i.e. Sportscenter and… well, just Sportscenter) lead off weekday shows with practice reports from their “expert” correspondents, rather then the fascinating races in baseball. It’s absurd.

It’s absurd because every year so many teams & fans in those cities are hanging onto this last weekend for a hope to reach the playoffs. The American League is pretty much set, except for seeding but on the other hand, the National League, which I hardly ever follow, is wild right now. Berserk! Every single division is up for grabs and four teams are fighting for the wild card spot. The teams in play are: Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Milwaukee, Arizona, San Diego & Colorado. Seven teams, four spots, one weekend. Not as catchy as “Save the cheerleader, save the world” or anything involving Dane Cook, but not bad right?

Like I said earlier, I don’t follow the National League. I’m from Minnesota and it’s natural to follow the conference that your hometown team is in. With 30 some teams it would be impossible to know everything, unless your name is Steve Phillips, Peter Gammons, or Kevin Costner. Side note: I threw Costner in here because he’s done 34 baseball movies, so he probably knows his stuff. I like sticking to one league. Two things are triggering this National League based entry: The Twins stink and my brother currently lives in Wisconsin (I haven’t completely forgiven him for this yet. Still holding a slight grudge). If the Twins were either in the playoffs or still fighting for a spot or my brother wouldn’t be giving me updates on the state of the Brewers, this piece would never have been written. You guys got lucky I guess.

So for when’s the last time a certain team has been in the playoffs purposes, three teams stick out without even looking at Wikipedia: Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Colorado. I’m going to check in a second, but any guess I can give you is going to be past 10+ years. It has to be. Let’s check...ok I got it...Philadelphia made the World Series in 1993, 14 years ago. Milwaukee made the World Series in 1982, 25 years ago. Finally, Colorado made the playoffs in 1995, 12 years ago. Without getting into it too deeply, this paints a nice picture on the parity problem in the MLB. It’s horrible. And just think how cities like Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Tampa Bay feel. They haven’t had a sniff at the playoffs the last 15 years. No wonder why those stadiums are empty.

So, if you’re free this weekend or have a couple moments at night to check box scores to see who won, please do. I’m also pretty sure you’ll see some games on TV. Take a moment to appreciate what those teams & fans are going through. This is crunch time. You might have tunnel vision for the NFL right now, but take a break. This is a big weekend. I’m going to be pulling for those three teams above, strictly to get some new blood involved. Maybe you will too, but either way give it some attention. I wish I could put this in perfect words myself, but I can’t. I got a C in my high school English class. So, I’m going to leave you a quote from Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) from “Field of Dreams:”

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

Seven teams, four spots, one weekend...

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